Thursday, September 29, 2011

Evaluating the 2011 Twins Lineup

I thought it would be helpful to evaluate the actual lineup the Twins had on the field for most of the season. Here it is:

2- Butera (75)

3- Morneau(55)/Cuddyer(41)

4) Casilla(53)/Hughes(34)

5) Valencia(146)

6) Nishioka(59)/Plouffe(45)

7) Young(75)

8) Revere(88)

9) Cuddyer(73)

DH) Thome(59)

I included the second player when the difference was less than 20 starts. As you can see, only Valencia and Revere actually started over half the games at the listed position.

So where should we see improvement next year, assuming there are no changes during the offseason? For purposes here, I am going to assume Kubel and Cuddyer return or the Twins find similar alternatives.

Catcher - If Joe Mauer can start 100+ games next year it will be a major improvement at catcher.

First Base - Morneau full time, rather than for 1/3 of the season, will be a major improvement at first base.

Second Base - Casilla full time won't have the impact of Morneau and Mauer returning, but it will still be a big improvement over this year.

Third Base - Valencia struggled a bit in his second year. I think its likely he will either improve or be replaced by Plouffe or Hughes. In either case there should be a slight improvement.

Shortstop - I think Plouffe is the likely shortstop. But either Nishioka or Plouffe will only win the job if they are better than the combination was this year.

Left field - Revere is the likely left fielder. I think this is a wash compared to Young. Young was a better hitter, but he didn't produce much this year. Revere will be a huge improvement on defense.

Center Field - Span is a better center fielder than Revere. He may not have the range, but he has a better arm and more experience. And his bat at the top of the order is also an improvment.

Right Field - I think its likely there will be some fall off here in one sense. Cuddyer is going to be a year older. But with Kubel also healthy, the combination is still going to be better than some of the guys the Twins ran out there while Cuddyer played other positions.

DH - Kubel full time will be an improvement over the combination this year. The loss of Thome will have more impact on the bench than the everyday lineup.

The conclusion is that the Twins should be a better team next year at every position, even in the unlikely event they make no moves to improve the team. Of course, its unlikely that will happen. The Twins probably won't try to get both Cuddyer and Kubel back. However, they may try to sign Thome.

The shortstop options are not the best. The logic above is based on the idea that the best of the two guys available will still be better than this year's hybrid version. My guess is the Twins are going to try to find at least one additional candidate before spring training.

But that doesn't change the reality that when you look at the lineup position by position, the Twins start the offseason looking like a lot better team than just finished the season.

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